Winners are grinners, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) Chairman, Peter Taylor, and the largest individual BCL shareholder, Axel Sturm, recently met at the opulent Goodwood Park Hotel in Singapore to discuss Bougainville’s future.
Axel G. Sturm and Peter R. Taylor having lunch in Singapore.
In recent years Sturm has become a frequent commentator on Bougainville affairs. His knack for insulting sound bites has made him a favourite among journalists. Many of Sturm’s most legendary sprays are launched via the European Shareholders of Bougainville (ESBC) website which he administers. There he has slammed Bougainvillean leaders, writers and filmmakers accusing them of being ‘criminal terrorists’, ‘fanatics’ and ‘mentally sick’. Sturm has also attacked PNG statesmen and decorated foreign commentators who he accuses of being ‘naïve’, ‘delirious’ and dishonest.
Yet far from distancing themselves from Sturm’s inflammatory remarks, BCL it would seem endorses them. In an address published on Sturm’s ESBC website, Peter Taylor writes:
“As chairman of Bougainville Copper I am restricted in what I can say due to corporations’ laws. You do not have the same restrictions. Your analysis of the situation on Bougainville is appreciated” (ESBC Website, May 2011).
Here is a selection of Sturm’s “appreciated” analysis, which BCL’s Chairman travels several thousand miles to hear:
On Remembering the Bougainville Conflict
Bougainville writer Leonard Fong Roka has written numerous touching stories on the Bougainville war including one about his father’s tragic murder. This is the advice given to Roka by Sturm:
“Dear Leonard, the Bougainville Crisis was a nasty experience – for sure! But I believe that the Second World War was even worse for Bougainvilleans. Certainly one must not forget what happened and one has to learn from mistakes. But touching old wounds regularly is not helpful at all for healing” (PNG Attitude, 3/11/2012).
On BCL Liability for War Crimes and Environmental Damage
Sturm has denied BCL’s liability:
“We shareholders – as I understand, Rio Tinto, also, is a major shareholder – we are OK to invest another US$5 billion into the mine [on which they will make a large profit – PNG Mine Watch]. And I think that is more than enough compensation for a situation that was not caused by Bougainville Copper” (Radio New Zealand, 16/7/13).
He has also seems to suggest BCL was the victim:
“The mine was closed nearly 20 years ago mainly due to the secessionist conflict in which BCL was made responsible. Therefore, we believe that it would be a friendly sign of the Bougainvillean landowners to invite BCL to come back to work on the island” (Post Courier 8/5/2008).
On the Grand Chief, Sir Michael Somare
“I consider him as a poor, delirious old man who is more and more out of his mind” (ESBC Press Release, 26/6/2011).
On Critics of Rio Tinto
Sam Kauona – Former Commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army
“Sam Kauona is one of the alleged murderers of the so called Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA)! He is on the pay-roll of foreign notorious backdoor players! Most of his life he spent as a hardened criminal terrorist by intimidating, robbing and also presumably killing innocent Bougainvillean citizens” (ESBC Website, 27/2/2013).
Clive Porabou – Bougainvillean Environmentalist and filmmaker
Sturm accuses Porabou of being a “fanatic”. He claims: “Clive Porabou – mislead and remote-controlled by anarchic left-wing ecologist groups in London (UK) and Australia – still continues spreading lies and jealousy in the internet and on the ground” (ESBC Press Release, 5/4/2011).
In a further exchange Sturm accused Porabou of being mentally ill:
“Parabou: In this regard, the closing down of Panguna Mine involved blood and the loss of lives of twenty thousand fighters, innocent children, men and women from the Southern tip to the Northern isles of Mekamui/Bougainville.
Sturm: You know very well that only approximately 1200 people were killed by unrest on Bougainville. The others died because of lack of medicines and normal death in that period. … Stop to publish all that bullshit now or are you mentally sick??” (see ESBC Website, 20/10/2011)
Lawrence Daveona – Chairman of the Panguna Mine Affected Landowners Association
Sturm on Daveona in 2008: “When I met him in May in Port Moresby, I had been deeply impressed by Lawrence Daveona. He is the ideal mediator in this sensitive issue. He has our confidence and our full support as well. Earlier than others Lawrence understood that the only way of bringing enduring peace and prosperity to the island of Bougainville means first of all getting all parties concerned together” (ESBC Website, 7/7/2008).
Sturm on Daveona in 2013: “It is true that for many years the ESBC supported Mr. Daveona’s efforts to resume mining by BCL. Unfortunately I had to stop funding Mr. Daveona because of his increasing inappropriate behaviour towards Bougainville’s President, Dr. John Momis and myself. Sadly there was no more sustainable cooperation possible for the benefit of Bougainvilleans. Today, quite obviously, Mr. Daveona follows his very own agenda and private interest which is proved by his recent statements. He does not have any regard for the people of Bougainville or even the Panguna landowner’s future” (Mine Watch PNG, 29/6/2013).
Dr Kristian Lasslett – Lecturer in Criminology, University of Ulster
Dr Lasslett’s research uncovered evidence confirming Rio Tinto’s infamous role in the Bougainville conflict. Sturm claimed: “It’s really shameful if an expert in criminology completely ignores facts and reality. Your naive adoption of statements and claims from rebel groups on the ground disqualify you as an honest scientist [Dr Lasslett’s claims are based on statements made by BCL Managers and internal BCL records – PNG Mine Watch] …I suppose your work in Ulster [Northern Ireland], a region well known for rebellion and organised crime, troubled your vision…Unfortunately you are also allowed to spread your ideas among you students. You shall not use your academic position as a platform for indoctrination and agitation” (PNG Attitude, 26/4/2012).
Brian Thomson – Journalist, SBS Australia
Thomson produced a powerful piece on Bougainville’s tragic past, including material on Rio Tinto’s role in the hostilities. Sturm responded: “Thomson’s loud presentation dismantles him as a naive and unprofessional 3rd class journalist” (ESBC Website, 26/6/2011). Thomson has won two Walkley Awards and a UN Peace Prize.
On Bougainville’s Future and Mining
In an interview with the Post Courier Sturm suggests Bougainville could become the next United Arab Emirates or even the Cayman Islands, a notorious tax haven:
“He [Sturm] also said that if the treasure in Bougainville was exploited, Bougainville would become one of the most fascinating places in the Pacific region [its not already ?– PNG Mine Watch]. Mr Sturm said Bougainville could be compared to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where it was just an ordinary country before oil was found but today was the most prosperous nation in the world. He said if Bougainville considered venturing into mining activities, revenue earned from this industry would be used to fund other sectors such as tourism which would also benefit the whole region. Mr Sturm said the UAE was the wealthiest region and the money gave the Arabs the liberty to cultivate their ancient traditions [note tradition is alive and well on Bougainville – PNG Mine Watch]. Also, in far future Bougainville might become a fiscal paradise like Cayman Islands, Bahamas or other situated next door to the emerging markets of Asia, he said”. (Post Courier, 6/5/2006)